By NBF News

Maritime Operators pushing for the responsibility of a commercial regulator be given to Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA), which has the technical know-how and the manpower requirement to regulate the industry. Port operators said NPA has the network of offices and operational base in all the seaport in the country to carry out this function.

The operators said the idea of creating another agency to assume the regulatory functions would make government spend more money, which they said is unnecessary waste of public funds. This is because budgetary approvals would have to be made for the new agency to enable it establish offices in all the port locations in the country. Current performance indices of the ports released recently by NPA shows that at the end of December 2010, the ports recorded a cargo throughput of 74.9 million metric tonnes. This represents an increase of 12 percent compared to the 66.9 million metric tonnes recorded in the comparative period of 2009.

The statistics released by NPA further shows that coastal vessels that called at the Nigerian seaports in 2010 stood at 21,950 representing an increase of 26.1 percent when compared with 17, 403 recorded in 1999 while the gross tonnage of the coastal vessels in 2010 stood at 6.8 million representing a growth of 18.6 percent over 2009 figure of 5.7 million. Details of other cargo throughput show that Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) shipment in 2010 stood at 19.4 million metric tonnes, representing a growth of 40.7 percent over the 13.8 million tonnes shipped in 2009. Also, general cargo shipment increased from the 8.2 million metric tonnes recorded in 2009 to 9.1 million metric tonnes recorded in 2010, representing an increase of 10.4 percent.

Meanwhile, crude oil shipment in 2010 stood at 105.8 million metric tonnes, compared with the 101.6 million metric tonnes shipped in 2009. The statistics also show that a total of 4,962 ocean going vessels called at the nation's seaports in the year under review (2010) as against those of 4,832 in 2009, which represents a  growth rate of 2.9 percent. The total gross tonnage of ocean going vessels stood at 108.6 million, which represents a 20.1 percent growth rate over 97.8 million recorded in the preceding year.

This upsurge in cargo and vessel traffics, the stakeholders said is an indication that the country may have started reaping gains of her port reform programme. NPA General Manager in-charge of Public Affairs, Chief Michael Ajayi attributed the increase in cargo volume to the regular dredging and maintenance of the channels embarked upon by the management in conjunction with the organisation's Joint venture partners.

According to Ajayi, this development allowed for bigger draught vessels with large volume of cargo into Nigerian seaports.

Meanwhile, Engineer Omar Suleiman, NPA MD has further assured that the organisation is more than ever committed to the achievement of a hub seaport status for the West and Central African region and would continue in the current year to attract more vessels, develop new port facilities, expand the existing port facilities and develop the necessary infrastructure that would make the nation's seaports a hub for the region.

The call for commercial regulator is coming on the heels of the declaration by Suleiman that the organization is in support of the calls for the establishment of a commercial regulator to moderate activities at the ports.  Port industry operators, who have been reacting to the performance of Nigeria seaport in recent times, said the seaports are still faced with great challenges occasioned by the absence of a commercial regulator.